I decided to purchase the iPad as my travel companion in anticipation of a conference I had to attend in Chicago. I don’t own an iPhone (still love my Blackberry Curve), but I do own an iPod Touch and a Mac (converted from Windows 2 years ago). Thus, I’m not an Apple Zealot but I do appreciate gadgets and technology.
After HEAVY usage over the past 72 hours, here are my thoughts:
Setting up the iPad for my Trip
Since I already have an iPod Touch, it was easy for me to load up the iPad with fresh content in preparation for my trip. I loaded up a series of Video Podcasts, 3 movies (Lord of the Rings, of course), and my music. Basically, I treated it like an iPod/iPhone – so the learning curve was non-existent if you already have one of them. If you don’t, then you’ll need to get familiar with iTunes.
Quick Primer from a Veteran
The App Store has thousands of Apps, but many aren’t iPad ready yet. Following the advice of some friends (thanks Chip), combined with some personal exploration, I found a lot of great apps to get me started (all listed below). For purposes of this post, I outlined the ones that were most important on my trip.
- Mail (Included with iPad): Email Program
- Evernote (Free): Personal Life Organizer
- Netflix (Free App, Requires Monthly Plan): Watch Movies Instantly Over the Internet
- IM+ ($9.99): Messenger program (AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Skype, GTalk, Facebook, Twitter, etc)
- Adobe Ideas (Free): Screen drawing
- Good Reader ($0.99): File Access Program (Dropbox, Google Docs, FTP, iDisk, etc.)
- Naturescape (Free): Background noise for sleep
- WTD (Free): Fun game that is often played in Bars to locate ‘ Whats the Difference’
[Fun to Have]
- NPR, USA Today, BBC News, ABC Video, Pandora Music, Epicurious, Wikipanion, The Weather Channel, Dragon Dictation, IMDb, WTD, Pages, Harbor Master, Virtuoso Free (Keyboard)
My first ‘Ah-ha’ Moment
Like any new kid with a toy, I took the iPad to show off everywhere on the first day. I took the afternoon off and treated my mother to the movies with the iPad in tow. She wasn’t really impressed (kept saying it was a big iPod) until we were sitting in the theater, waiting for the movie to start and I showed her the game WTD (What’s the Difference). As we waited for the movie, the iPad’s beautiful screen allowed us to play WTD and we had a blast. This experience was unique because it wouldn’t have been a fun game on my phone/iPod and it would be lame to take a laptop to the movies.
Cracking the Hard Case
My wife, much to my dismay, isn’t a gadget lover & my affairs with various devices often garner me looks ranging from sympathy to disdain :) When I told her I spent $1000 on an iPad, she was shocked. (PS: Don’t fool yourself, you’ll spend $1000 by the time you buy accessories and software for the iPad).
However, she’s already experienced her first unique ‘Ah-ha’ moment with the iPad. Each morning, she gets up and goes to the computer (downstairs) or boots up the laptop in the bedroom (it won’t properly sleep, so I know it could be a little easier). With the iPad, she can now run The Weather Channel app and instantly gets the weather, including hourly breakdowns. The Apps interface is fantastic & since it remembers our location, much better than going to a website. There’s hope she’ll finally approve.
At the Airport
So the day of the trip arrives, and I can’t bring myself to part with my laptop – so I bring it with me as a backup to the iPad. In security, I had to put the iPad in a bin with the laptop (so they could scan it) which I found interesting – they’re treating it more like a laptop than a phone.
When I get to my seat, I run into a problem – no internet. For my WiFi only iPad, this would become a common theme for me, so I highly RECOMMEND getting the 3G version if you can afford the monthly coverage. But I digress…
Luckily, Boingo has an iPhone app that is really awesome. In the past, I thought Boingo was a rip off. To use the internet for an hour before my flight, I had to pay $7.95 for an entire month? Well, they’ve solved the problem – now, I can buy a single hour for $1.99. This gives me a price point that made it awesome to use the internet for 1 hour, pay a great price, and feel good about the experience (plus, they actually give you 1 hour for free).
Needless to say, web surfing & handling email is awesome on the iPad, so I won’t bore you with the user experience details.
On the Plane
Without internet on the plane, the iPad becomes a lot less useful as a work device – especially when all of my work applications are web based. So, I switched over to entertainment mode. I watched all of my Video Podcasts and actually learned about an awesome team-building exercise called the Marshmallow Challenge (http://www.marshmallowchallenge.com) from a TED Talk. To make sure I didn’t forget to try it out in the future, I opened up Evernote and made a quick note that would Sync back with the service when I got WiFi again (thus making it available to all of my other devices in the future).
Note: I could have done all of this with my iPod Touch, but watching the Video Podcasts is better on a larger screen.
At the Hotel, First Night
I arrived the night before the conference & after settling in for the night, I turned on the hotel TV. Nothing good was showing, even on HBO. So, I opened up Netflix on my iPad and watched one of the suggested movies that I knew my wife wouldn’t watch with me at home :) As I laid in bed, I realized I was comfortably watching a full movie on a great screen without my hands (thanks to the innovative Apple Case). More important, I didn’t spend any money renting a movie from their movie service ($9.99 a movie!!!).
Trying to Sleep
No matter how nice a hotel, you can still hear people in the hallways. To solve this problem, I typically leave the TV on. Unfortunately, this leads to me waking up multiple times in the night if the TV programming becomes too loud or if the glow of the screen stirs me from sleep. After I got done watching Netflix, I noticed an App I originally had on my iPod called Naturescape. Its a background sound application that I originally got to help my 1 year old sleep (plugged into speakers via my iPod). I decided to try it out with the iPad (which has external speakers) and it was awesome – I drifted off to sleep and slept the entire night.
Conference Day, Portability
As I suspected, the size made it very easy to take into my meetings without anyone noticing – it looks just like a notepad if you have it in a case. I was surprised at how liberating it felt to not carry a laptop bag around all day. Until you use one, you can’t fully appreciate this. Also, using my iPad helped me recognize three things about myself as a laptop user:
- Having a laptop screen ‘up’ actually makes meeting someone feel less personal since part of their profile is blocked (and its worse if you both have one up).
- I never realized how loud people (including) myself type until you’ve been working on an iPad where typing is silent. This was very apparent in some of the breakout sessions.
- When you own a laptop, you let it dictate where you sit. Other attendees wanted to sit near a power source & always had to have a table/flat surface. The iPad allowed me to sit anywhere and comfortably work in any position. While I know I could keep a laptop in my lap, I don’t really like how hot my MacBook makes my legs, especially when I’m already wearing a sports coat :)
Actually doing work
Email & Contacts
As the CEO of CentreSource, my computing needs revolve around communications. I’m a heavy email user & I can honestly say that ’Mail’ (default mail program on the iPad) worked great. After I got a little help (thanks Chip, again), I got the iPad to talk with our Google Apps account (similar to Exchange) and it gave me access to all of my email and contacts. Using the mail App was fast, easy, and the push notifications (alerts you about new mail without having the App open) kept me from checking my email obsessively (as I do on my laptop).
Instant Messaging, Social Networks
Next, I have to keep in touch with my staff, family, and friends. I downloaded a program called IM+ and it is the best chat program I’ve ever used – even better than the ones I’ve used on my laptop. I really appreciated having my AOL, MSN, Yahoo, GTalk, Skype, Facebook, and Twitter contacts all in one place. This ultimately made Twitterific (another App) irrelevant AND it makes me much more likely to chat with people on Facebook. Note: The App was a little buggy, so I’m hoping future versions add more stability. If they ever add Blackberry Messenger, I’ll die and go to heaven.
Screen Capture + Markup
Next, someone needed me to review some creative work for a client campaign & it quickly became difficult for me to communicate the changes I wanted made. To help the conversation, I took a sceenshot of the webpage (Press HOME+POWER at the same time) and then opened up the image in the App Adobe Ideas. I then used my finger to markup the image, followed by 2 taps to email the markup to my staff. I can’t even do that easily on my laptop.
I could spend forever writing the virtues of Evernote, but for this post – I’ll simply say that taking notes on Evernote via the iPad was awesome. In each conference session, I took notes in the iPad Evernote app + then immediately sent them to our group. Moreover, it was nice that Evernote was continuously sync’ing in the background (thus making it available on my other computers & phone) instantly. Specific to the iPad, there was a point where I saw an interesting logo layout & decided to draw it on my iPad for later reference via Evernote. (Very specific to my need, but shows that my ‘use cases’ were already expanding to include hand drawn notes)
For file access, I used a program called GoodReader & it gave me access to my Google Docs, all my Email Attachments, Dropbox (cloud file storage), and my local home computers. It lets you read a large number of file types & it magically integrates with my other iPad apps - thus giving you access to files across the entire iPad experience.
It’s one thing to hear that a device has an 11+ hour battery life, but its far more impactful to actually experience it. It was amazing to leave the room at 8am with only my iPad, use it heavily ALL day (I’m not kidding, I was using it 90% of the time), and have 30% battery left when I ended the day at 6pm. No cords, no plugs, no worries.
Writing my Review
Now that 72 hours is up, I decided to write this review and it brings me to 2 negative points:
- Typing on the iPad is rough – it gets better/easier, but don’t fool yourself if you think you’ll be burning up the keyboard. I’m probably 50% slower typing on it with LOTS of typos :) However, I bought the optional bluetooth keyboard & if you can get past people asking you why you don’t just use a laptop, its actually a great experience to use the wireless keyboard for larger bodies of text (like this)
- Without Internet, the device becomes a lot less valuable to a power user or business traveler (in my opinion). If you plan on using it heavily, take my advice and get the 3G model – it will make your experience so much better.
One last thing
For Business users, I was amazed that the iPad already has a Citrix App, a GoToMeeting App, Exchange Integration (from the latest iPhone OS), and a very functional office suite: Pages (word processing), Keynote (Powerpoint), and Numbers (spreadsheet).
Many of the apps on the iPad are still very buggy – I think my iPod Touch has crashed maybe once in its entire life, but I can get the iPad Apps to crash 4-5 times a day (especially Evernote & Netflix)
Hope you enjoyed :)
Sent from my iPad